In the United States of America, the criminal justice system is based on the adversarial system or common law system. An adversarial trial allows the accused or defendant to be given a fair chance to prove his or her innocence. The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution states that the defendant is to be given a fair chance to oppose the prosecution, have witnesses to help with his or her defense, face and question the complainant, and for his or her case to be heard by a group of people who are unbiased and impartial. This group is known as the trial jury.
Jury Selection. To start the process of jury selection, a group of ordinary citizens are summoned to the courtroom by way of a juror summons that he or she has received in the mail. Once in the courtroom each juror must go through a process called voir dire. Voir dire is a questions and answers session that is facilitated by both the prosecutor and defense attorney along with the judge. This process is done to see if any of the potential jurors are biased or have been predisposed by anyone or prior information the potential jurors may have heard about the case.
After the jury has been selected, the case is ready to go to trial. Opening Statements and Prosecution’s Witnesses. At the beginning of the trial the prosecution as well as the defense will make an opening statement. This statement will give the jury and judge an overall summary of what both sides will intend to prove during the trial. Once opening statements are complete, the prosecution will start to call witnesses that he or she believes will assist in proving the case.
The witnesses will give testimony based on what he or she witnessed personally. In addition, the prosecution may call upon expert witnesses to give their points of view on the case based on their professional knowledge. The prosecutor’s main goal is to persuade jury through the testimony of the witnesses that there is probable cause the defendants is guilty of the charges. Following the testimony of a witness for the prosecution, the defense attorney has a chance to cross-examine him or her.
The defense attorney will ask the witnesses for the prosecution several questions to establish doubt in the case. If the defense attorney is successful in establishing doubt of the defendant’s guilt, the attorney can asked for the trial to be dismissed. In the event the judge denies the request to dismiss and the defense believes that his line of question has in fact, established reasonable doubt, he or she can rest the case. At this point, the defense does not have to call any witnesses.
Defense and Prosecution Rebuttal. Just as the prosecution has a chance to establish his or her case by way of calling eye witnesses or expert witnesses, the defenses is granted the same opportunity if he or she decides not to rest the case. The defense attorney can call any witnesses he or she may have to support the defendant’s case as well as allowing the defendant to testify on his or her behalf. In addition to the eye witnesses and expert witnesses, the defense may opt to call on a character witness.
A character witness is a person who has known the defendant for quite some time and can attest to the defendant’s upright moral temperament and judgment. Immediately after the defense has called his last witness, the prosecution has the opportunity to cross examine any of the defense’s witnesses. Subsequently, the prosecution can attempt to provide evidence that will counter or disprove the evidence presented by the defense’s witnesses. Once the prosecution and defense has no more witnesses to call on to testify, both will state their closing arguments. Closing Arguments.
Closing arguments are made by both sides; defense and prosecution. First the defense attorney will address the jury and affirm his or her position in the case by restating the facts of the case as he or she believes shows reasonable doubt. This helps to paint a mental picture of how the defense sees the case. After the defense has finished with his or her closing statement, it is the prosecutor’s turn to state his or her position with closing arguments. The closing arguments of the prosecution will attempt to persuade the jury to see beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant did, in fact, commit the crime.
Once both sides have completed their closing statements, the judge directs his or her attention to the jury to clarify the meaning of the charges, evidential guidelines, and which verdicts will apply to the case. Jury Deliberations and Verdict. The moment after he judge has instructed the jury, the jury will leave the courtroom and deliberate in a private setting. During this time the jury will reflect on the testimony heard in the courtroom and ponder over the evidence to help them make the best decision about the verdict.
Whether they choose the verdict of guilty or not guilty, the decision must be unanimous. After reaching a verdict, the jurors will come back to the courtroom and announces the verdict. In the event the jury cannot come to a consensus; the judge will declare a hung jury and the case will be set for a retrial. In conclusion, the United States has implemented the necessary steps in a process to ensure an individual’s Sixth Amendment rights are not compromised. These steps are the template of a jury trial.